• The Youth Envoy, Ahmad Alhendawi, standing on stage and addressing the audience at He for She

UN Secretary-General’s Envoy on Youth’s speech at launch of #HeForShe

Excellencies, Secretary General, Ban Ki-moon,
President Sam Kutesa, President of the General Assembly,
Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka, Executive Director of UN women,
UN Women Goodwill Ambassador Emma Watson,
Mr. Kiefer Sutherland

Ladies and gentlemen –

I honestly have to say, this is one of the most exciting events I have attended—on a Saturday in the UN…
I’m so honoured to be involved with all of you.

When I was a child, I used to love science fiction, as I’m sure many of you did too.

Young people everywhere identify with characters of famous movies. We all strived to be Super Man. Every young boy envisioned his bat mobile. And of course, Harry Potter and his sorcery captivated young and old alike.

The reality is that a lot of the science fiction movies we all grew up with, are now reality—we can walk on the moon. We can talk on cell phones. And computers connect millions of people in nanoseconds.

In the famous movie Back to the Future – the future was October 21, 2015—it seemed so far away! That is next year! We ARE the future.

Like science fiction and fantasy, sometimes I think that the fight for equality is a creative vision, where we are all characters . Instead of fighting monsters and aliens, we attack discrimination, inequality, racism and sexism. Our epic film stars UN Secretary-General, UN Women, Emma Watson and Kiefer Sutherland!

In fact, in this creative vision of our fight against inequality you are ALL main actors.

We need powerful and new narratives to break passive mind-sets that allow inequality and ignore injustice. We need larger than life characters who take the hard policy work of organizations like the United Nations and package for global audiences.

Partnerships with celebrities help take the fight against inequality to where it is happening. On the streets. In schools. In homes. In work places. In relationships.

Let me ask you a question—Do you know how long people have existed on this planet?

Here is the good news – no one really knows!
Another bit of good news—after thousands of years of our KNOWN history as humans, we can stand here together, different nations, nationalities, ages, languages, cultures, genders – all gathered around the shared values in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. We are rich because we are diverse. We are strong because we are united.

Think about the Universal Declaration. The entire world agreed together on equality for all, justice, human dignity and basic human rights.
However, this gives us something to reflect on—

We need a global community to not only AGREE on universal rights for all, but to work towards them. To honour them. To apply them.

We are carrying the march for equality forwards. We need everyone. Programs and initiatives are not enough—we need a movement.

HeForShe is not just a campaign. It is a moral responsibility. A collective call to action.

He needs to join the battle for the equality of women and girls.

In many developing countries 1 in 9 girls are married before the age of 15. And HE should say “NO”.

Every year, 7.3 million girls under the age of 18 give birth. He should say “NO”.

Nearly 58 million children and 63 million youth are not in school around the world–70% are girls. He should take a stand!

We are at a unique time in history—half of the world’s population is under the age of 25. Youth can be the driving force to break stereotypes that allow for inequality.

When girls and women are educated, healthy and equipped with the right skills and opportunities, they have equal abilities to tackle the world’s most pressing problems.

Young people are vital actors in helping making gender inequality a thing of the past, by demanding that women’s equality be represented as a fundamental human right.

We, as men and boys, must stand up and support the amazing work of women around the world working for change. We must stand up as role models to educate other men and boys and drive broader awareness on combating gender inequality. We have the power to think new, and be the “new.”

The fight against inequality should include He—Because he and she working together is a winning team.

It is time to archive the script of inequality. Let’s all work together to ensure that the only place to view this outdated movie is in a museum.


Launch event video. The Youth Envoy’s speech begins at 1:38:26.

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